Plantar Fasciitis: At-Home Tests and Exercises

plantar fasciitisOne of the positives of the pandemic experienced by some people, is increased physical activity! However, when we start a new activity or if we increase the duration/speed/volume of an activity too quickly, the risk of injury goes up. This includes the inflammatory and painful condition of the foot and heel, called plantar fasciitis.

Each tissue in our body has a certain tolerance. Depending on many factors, such as how much we challenge that tissue daily, what we eat, how hydrated we are, how well our body moves as a whole, etc., that tissue either has a high tissue tolerance (it can handle a lot of load/stress) or a low tolerance, or somewhere in between. For example, if I am desk worker who doesn’t get out and walk very often, my plantar fascia (the fibrous tissue that connects my heel to the ball of my foot), likely has a low tissue tolerance. If I suddenly begin walking an hour each day, I have likely asked too much of that tissue and have gone past its threshold, which can cause injury. Our goal is to slowly and progressively increase our body’s tissue capacity. This is the best way to build strength, resiliency, and endurance. We want to challenge the body just enough without overloading it. We need to be mindful and listen to our body’s needs.

Other common causes of plantar fasciitis are mechanical: Often our ankle (talocrural joint) is not mobile enough to allow for proper walking mechanics. Do you have enough ankle range of motion? Try this quick test:


Ankle Range-of-Motion Home Test:

Grab a measuring tape and measure 5-inches out from a wall and mark that spot with a piece of tape. Facing the wall, place the toes of one foot on the tape. Keep your heel on the ground and try to bring (bend) your knee to the wall. If your knee can’t reach the wall, you have limited ankle movement and your body will likely have to create compensations for even basic movements like walking. Repeat with the other ankle. At what distance can you keep your whole foot on the ground and touch your knee to the wall at the same time?

If you were just shy (or perhaps not even close!) of 5 inches, consider whether your calf muscles are limiting your ankle movement:

1. Calf massage: Massage or roll the calf muscles to help loosen them up. Spend 5-10 seconds on each tender spot, 5-10 spots, once every other day.

2. Calf stretch:

      1. Stand to face a wall, with your hands on the wall. Place one foot in front of the other. Bend the knee of the leg that is back (behind you). Feel a stretch in the back of that leg, close to the heel. Hold 30-60 seconds. Repeat three 3 times, once a day.
      2. Take the same position, but this time keep your back knee straight and lean towards the wall. Hold 30-60 seconds. Repeat three 3 times, once a day.

Toe Extension:

Another mechanical issue that I often see related to plantar fasciitis, is limited extension of the big toe joint. We gain a great deal of power by extending the big toe joint when we push off that foot when walking: As your back foot is just about to lift off the ground and you rise onto the ball of your foot, your big toe needs to extend (bend upwards), and if it does not, your body must compensate somehow, and this can lead to injury or pain later.

To work on your toe extension, massage the bottom of your foot. Look for tender spots to massage for 10-20 seconds, once daily or every other day. You can also try “toe pulls”: While seated, grasp your big toe and gently pull the toe away from the rest of your foot, along the line (length) of your foot. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat 5 times, once a day.


I do hope that you are taking some time to include activity in you day now more than ever. Remember to gradually and progressively add exercise so your body has time to adapt. Use this time to listen to what your body is saying and to fuel your exercise choices!


Christine Campbell, Physiotherapist

pain, Physiotherapy

Christine Campbell, Physiotherapist

Christine Campbell is an experienced physiotherapist and an indispensable member of the Kingston Integrated Healthcare team since 2016. She provides quality one-on-one, hands-on physiotherapy care that improves overall function by addressing underlying causes and movement problems.


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